Mountain Towns: Fernie

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In the southeast corner of British Columbia, one of the best-kept secrets in the ski universe quietly exists. Buried under almost nine meters of ultra-light powder every winter, the town of Fernie has been a sleeper of a ski destination for four decades. This charismatic coal mining town with its picturesque main street would be a draw on its own, but add a steep and deep ski resort with just the right amenities and few crowds, and you have one of the best ski towns in North America.

Fernie Alpine Resort

Perfect powder at Fernie Alpine Resort.

Perfect powder at Fernie Alpine Resort. Photo: Dave Heath

The roots of Fernie’s ski town success sit like a thick white blanket in the five alpine bowls that comprise Fernie Alpine Resort. Combining deep, open powder turns in the bowls and incredible tree skiing off its ridges, the resort caters to serious skiers and snowboarders. Here, beautifully cut runs boast fall lines that quicken the pulse.

Highlights include the old school, powder-choked Cedar Bowl with its intermediate- and expert-level tree skiing, and wide-open groomers down the middle. Be warned: Fernie gets so much powder you can’t always count on perfect corduroy. And that’s about the best problem a skier can have.

The White Pass chair accesses Currie Bowl and its huge array of ski terrain, from smooth rolling groomers to gnarly cliff bands. The Polar Peak Chair opened in January of 2012, providing access to terrain that once had to be entered on foot. And for beginners, the Elk and Deer chairs are both good options, with wide, easy, smooth runs.

Après Ski

Apres ski at The Rusty Edge, Fernie Alpine Resort.

The perfect place to après. Photo: Nick Nault

On-mountain, there’s no better place to eat or drink than The Rusty Edge, which stole locals’ hearts from the iconic Griz Bar with its cold, quality craft beer and fantastic pub fare. House Rule: If you hear or say Heiko Socher’s name—the ski hill founder—you have to cheers or “Prost!” someone next to you. Socher recently passed away, leaving behind a legacy as big and beautiful as the Lizard Range he built on.

Food and Drink in Fernie

Downtown Fernie in winter.

You can practically touch the mountains from downtown Fernie. Photo: Henry Georgi

In the city’s historic downtown, a wealth of shops, cafes and pubs have sprung up, making Fernie a good place to chill out, shop, or eat and drink with abandon. Mugshots is the longtime morning coffee champion. Big Bang Bagels offers bagels and coffee. Crumbs Cakery & Café has cupcakes, cakes and other pastries. Beanpod Chocolate offers locally made treats.

Nevados is a local favourite with Latin American fare. The Brickhouse Bar & Grill is an old standby with tasty food and craft beer. And lovers of hops can try out Fernie Brewing Company’s brews right where they are made. It’s worth the trip, as is Fernie itself. Drive three hours from Calgary, or an hour from the Canadian Rockies International Airport in Cranbrook, to visit this quintessential ski town.